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Coping with Advanced Cancer

  • Updated: 05/16/2014

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Introduction

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

You've struggled with the diagnosis, treatment, and maybe the recurrence of cancer. Now doctors may have told you that you have advanced cancer. They may have said that your cancer is not responding to treatment and that long-term remission is no longer likely. Or they may have said they have run out of standard treatment options. However you learn the news, it can be devastating to you and your loved ones. Often it's hard to believe or accept at first.

"I have good days and bad days. But I try to let there be more good ones than bad, and focus on things in my life that I can control. I just do the best I can, enjoying family, friends, and the little things in life." - Louise

Having advanced cancer can bring anxiety and uncertainty to your life. But some people with advanced cancer live far longer than expected. And remember, you are still in control of your choices and actions. Having an advanced disease can be a time of personal growth. It can even be a time of second chances. Many people say they started to see life in a new way after learning that their cancer had progressed despite treatment. They realized the importance of making the most of each day.

This information stresses four main points:

  • Learning more about ways you can help yourself may ease some of your concerns.
  • Your treatment may change, but as always, you deserve to ask for and receive good medical attention from your health care team and support from your caregivers.
  • It's important to talk about your worries, frustrations, and problems, and get support from others. In fact, it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
  • As your medical care changes, you still have many choices. You can choose the way you wish to live each day.

Reading This Information

"There are lots of things I still want to do, but I know that I may not be able to do them the way I planned. But that doesn't stop me from trying to achieve them in a different way." - Millie

No two people are alike. Some of this information may apply to you while others may not. Or some may be more useful later on. As you read through, choose what's right for you. Share it with your family members and loved ones. They may find it helpful to read it with you. Keep in mind that this is for you, an adult with advanced cancer, and the people close to you. For other information for a parent or loved one of a child or young person with cancer, see the NCI booklet, Young People With Cancer. Your friends and family members may also want to see the NCI booklet, When Someone You Love Has Advanced Cancer.

Above all else, try to remember that you are still in charge of your life. It may be hard to do this with all that you are going through. You may have trouble coping with your feelings from time to time. Or you may be grieving that your life has gone a different way than you had hoped. It's natural to feel negative at times. You'll have ups and downs. We hope this information can help you. Our goal is to help you stay in control as much as you can, and make the rest of your life fulfilling and satisfying. You can still have hope and joy in your life, even as you cope with what lies ahead.